Continuing my examination of the axiological nature of the phrase, “literary writing,” I will pick up with where I last left off: the notion of location.
If we may view “location” as being a mindset, a situation within which the writer is composing, then the subject of “intentions” is unavoidable. Is it the writer’s intentions that make a text literary or not? By default, if a writer sets out to create “art” and not “entertainment” is the result therefore “literary?”
This may be argued in terms of what James asserts, that all text contains ideology. There is a value being expressed, even in the most indulgent, hedonistic, or even prurient texts. The literary work is a container, a textual composition carrying an ideologically-charged particle or more sizeable mass than that depending upon intention, perhaps. All literature is therefore rhetoric.
As Berlin says (Villanueva p. 717), “a rhetoric can never be innocent.” It contains a value that is being communicated to an audience, in this case a reader. The writer in this case, is asking, “What exists? What is good? What is possible?” Through this process, the writer’s desires become structured and normalized, especially when placed vis-à-vis the expectations of the literary discourse community, those very same writers/readers/Authority regulators mentioned in the previous post. Recall what Collins and Gentner claimed as they defined “good writing” as “writing that conforms to a set of rules set by some authority.” This evaluative apparatus is pervasive. It is present not only in the reading of a novel or short story, but in the casual perusal or a newspaper or especially in the grading of a student essay, research paper, or other such assignment.This process of evaluation is constant, but the criterion for axological approval is ever changing. What was considered a “literary” work in the 19th Century is a far cry from what the postmodern sensibility would consider as such. If this contemplation seems twisty and convoluted, that’s because it is. While I am admittedly free-associating in true blogger style, I believe that any effort to definitively congeal a meaning and standard for “literary” results only in what amounts to a rhetorical strawman. Therefore, I would humbly argue that what constitutes “literary fiction” should not hold as much importance as it has enjoyed. Sufficient for the day is the task of evaluating any text.